What's new - Fashion & Trends

American Apparel fires "sleazy" founder Dov Charney

Dov Charney has been dubbed "the man who put the sleaze factor into American Apparel" after repeatedly being cited in sexual harassment lawsuits.  Now the clothing and accessories retailer American Apparel Inc has ousted its controversial founder as chairman and moved to fire him as chief executive and president amid an ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct.

The company, known for its racy advertising and bright "Made-In-America" clothes, said its chief financial officer, John Luttrell, would act as interim chief executive during the search for a permanent CEO. The retailer also appointed Allan Mayer and David Danziger as co-chairmen.

"We take no joy in this but the board felt it was the right thing to do," Mayer said in a statement.

Charney, 45, founded American Apparel's predecessor companies in 1989 and has been in charge since 2007 when the company went public.

On top of several official sexual harassment lawsuits (which have been dismissed or settled), x-rated rumours have swirled around the 45-year-old. He is famous for buying employees vibrators as presents; for asking them to masturbate in front of him; for walking the factory floor in his underpants, or wearing a sock where the underpants might have been. In 2004, a female journalist claimed that he had oral sex with a female employee while being interviewed for Jane magazine.

Far from being embarrassed, Charney has seemed proud of his attitude to sex, and a sense of extreme libertarianism has been promoted by the brand. In 2008, in official court documents, lawyers defending Charney said: "American Apparel is a sexually charged workplace where employees of both genders deal with sexual conduct, speech and images as part of their jobs." In that 2004 interview, Charney said: "I am a bit of a dirty guy, but people like that right now." Could it be, in 2014, that people don't like it any more?

Charney began his career importing T-shirts in his native Montreal and launched American Apparel in Los Angeles in 1997. By 2005, the company was declared one of the fastest-growing in the US. Charney was known to be an obsessive, hands-on leader of the company, dedicated to producing the clothing ethically, and though many former employees hated him, others would evangelically sing his praises.

An American Apparel advert from 2006

An American Apparel advert from 2006.

American Apparel has always been about a lifestyle, and aspects of that lifestyle currently feel far from fashionable. All that is left, now, are the tops and skirts and lurex-covered leggings, and a company left distancing itself from its founder as it tries to retain some of its sheen.

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